All of us on the Admissions staff have a soft spot in our hearts for the applicants on the waitlist.  We’re well aware that waiting for a final decision from March into the summer, after already waiting from January to March, is challenging.  And waiting isn’t for everyone.  But for those who want to hang in there, or for those who are trying to decide what to do, I have some details for you.  (You’ll also receive information by email.)

First, the prospects.  Nearly every year, we’ve made offers of admission to applicants who have remained on the waitlist:  only a few people in some years, but as many as 20 in others.  In my long Fletcher admissions life, there was only one year in which we didn’t make any admission offers to applicants on the waitlist, and that year we offered places in the following January’s entering class to a few of them.

Here’s the process:  We’ve made offers of a place on the waitlist to applicants a group of applicants to all the master’s-level programs.  For the next six weeks, the waitlist won’t be the focus of much of our attention, but applicants will be making their own decisions on whether to continue to wait.  Many will decide to turn down the offer — they’ll attend another graduate school or, maybe, continue to work.  Responses have already poured in, but the deadline isn’t until May 1, when we’ll set aside the applications for future review.  (And I should note that the applications are in alphabetical order — we don’t “rank” the waitlist.)

Meanwhile…we’re monitoring the responses of admitted students.  Some will accept the admission offer, but they’re organizing joint degrees, or balancing educational goals and professional responsibilities, and they’ll decide to defer enrollment for a year.  As these fine details of the enrollment situation unfold, we’ll go to the waitlist to admit the students we need to fill the September class.

So what can you do, once you’ve confirmed that you’ll wait?  We invite you to update your application with carefully selected materials.  Here is my annual list of suggested additions to waitlisted applications:

1.  Any update to basic application credentials:  Grades for newly completed classes, new test scores, an additional recommendation from your university or workplace, written by someone who knows you well and who can add a new perspective on your background.  (Please read that last sentence carefully.  You won’t gain much from a recommendation (however positive it might be) that covers the same ground as your previous three recommendations.)  You can also update your résumé, or send a copy of a newly published article.

2.  A brief essay to complete the sentence, “When I wrote my essay, I wish I had said….”  Do you have a better sense of your academic and career goals than you did in January?  If so, fill us in!  (Keeping your response to about 500 words is a good idea.)

3.  A visit to Fletcher.  We don’t offer formal interviews during the spring, but we’ll certainly meet with you if you happen to be able to visit.  The best time for an appointment is late April to early May.  We’ll try to accommodate you whenever you are here, but we’d appreciate it if you could hold off until after April 15.

4.  Anything else that you would have put in your application if the instructions had been written differently.  While I discourage you from sending a research paper or thesis (and I say this because I know that many applicants would like to send us additional reading materials), there may be something that you wished you could have included.

5.  Information that helps explain the gap or shortcoming that you feel may be holding your application back.  You may not have chosen to address it in your application, but now would be a good time to explain those crummy grades from your first undergraduate semester, or your limited international experience, or whatever else is a weakness in your application.  And a weakness you have noticed is probably one we’ve noticed, too.

You can send a short update by email, but please use postal mail for anything more substantive.

Historically, we have admitted students from the waiting list as early as late April (only once or twice) to early August (also rare).  The majority of the waiting list activity will take place from early May to the end of June.  It’s always our goal to sew everything up as quickly as possible — both for your sake and for ours.

Last, the scholarship question.  At the same time as I can’t guarantee we’ll have scholarship funds remaining in late May or June, I can say that we generally have had some money to work with.  Remember that the applicants who decide not to enroll are often returning scholarship funds, too.

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9 Responses to The waitlist: whether and how to wait

  1. Hi Blake,
    My advice on the GREs for waitlisted applicants is the same as for applicants at any other point in the process. If you can identify something that didn’t go optimally for you on the test day, and if you didn’t do as well as you thought you would, then retesting may be a good idea. (That’s assuming that the scores are low enough to warrant trying to improve them — sometimes applicants worry more than they need to about GRE scores.) Some test-takers have needed to deal with significant disruptions at their test center. Others may not have managed their time well, or may not have refreshed their quant skills as much as they should have, or just didn’t review enough in general. Beyond that, though, scores don’t tend to move much from test to test, and can even go down, unless you do something to ensure they won’t.
    Hope that’s helpful!

  2. Blake says:

    I’m debating about retaking the GRE.

    Is that something that is commonly done by wait listed candidates in the past, or are academic writings/additional recommendations more typically used to augment an application?


  3. Hi Carlos,
    You’re right that you can’t see your recommendation letters through GAMS (and most applicants waive their rights to see them, anyway), but you know who your recommenders were. When I say we’re looking for something new, I could explain it this way: A waitlisted applicant was a good student. She submitted two letters from professors, both of whom say she was a good student. An additional letter from a professor will probably also say she was a good student, but won’t change much in her application. A better choice would be a recommender from a different setting. Then the Committee would have a chance to learn something new.

    I hope that makes our suggestion a little clearer. As for the numbers…we still don’t know how many people will wait, and as you know, that’s the relevant number.

  4. Carlos says:

    Hello Jessica,

    Thanks for the timely and sympathetic blogs. I have one question relating to the recommendation letters. Given that the idea is for the Admissions staff to be able to read something new about us and not seen in the previous recommendation letters, is there a way to see the recommendation letters that you received for our applications? (personally, I have not had the chance to do so and I have not found any way to do it through GAMS).


    PS: Can we know the number of waitlist offers made this year? ;-)

  5. Hi Hannah,
    I’d discourage you from flooding us with new recommendations, but there might be a good reason to submit two. More important than the number of letters is ensuring that they tell us something new about you. Have your recommenders send the letters in whatever way is convenient for them — by mail, by email, or by fax. All are equally fine.
    I hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions.

  6. Hannah says:

    Regarding additional recommendation letters, does the admissions committee accept and read more than one recommendation letter? And how should the letters be sent between a hard copy mail and an electronic one??

  7. Toney says:

    Count on it! Thanks.

  8. Glad it’s helpful, Toney. Keep in touch as you do your waiting — we’re all happy to talk you through the process.

  9. Toney says:

    Waiting longer does stink, but this advice certainly doesn’t! Thanks Jessica, I’ll do my best to practice the patience virtue while I strengthen my application!

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